St. John’s headed in wrong direction with rematch against Seton Hall looming

St. John's Basketball Seton Hall Basketball
Seton Hall Pirates forward Alexis Yetna (10) drives past St. John’s Red Storm forward Aaron Wheeler (1).
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

St. John’s Red Storm head coach Mike Anderson called his squad “a work in progress” after they fell 66-60 to the Seton Hall Pirates on Saturday afternoon. The third-year coach will be hoping for a semblance of progress from his team when they face Seton Hall again on Monday at Walsh Gym. 

The Red Storm looked out of sorts on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, where poor shooting, a struggle to get rebounds and an off afternoon at the free-throw line proved to be their downfall. The Pirates were without guard Bryce Aiken due to concussion protocol, but St. John’s never took advantage of that. 

The Johnnies enter their rematch with the Seton Hall in a tough spot. The loss on Saturday was their fourth loss in their last five games and they are still without a win against a Quad One opponent this season. 

Monday will present another chance to break both streaks, but the Red Storm — a team talked about at the beginning of the year as a possible NCAA Tournament team — are not where their coach expected them to be. 

“I thought we should be further along than where we are right now, I really do. It’s late January,” Anderson said. “With the pause and some guys that are not where I want them to be right now, even as a team. We just have to keep working. That’s all you can do. The guys are playing as hard as they can play. The execution may not be there.”

With one half of the home and home out of the way, St. John’s will cross the Hudson on Monday to face Seton Hall in the intimate confines of Walsh Gym. The old school gymnasium will host its first Big East game since 1985 in front of a nearly all-student crowd. 

The game had originally been scheduled to be played on Dec. 20 at the Prudential Center in Newark, but was postponed due to COVID. Prudential Center was unable to accommodate the rescheduled date and the game was moved to the South Orange campus and Walsh Gym, which opened in 1940. 

“It’s a quick turnaround, short-term memory, we’re going into their place,” Anderson said about the rematch. “I think in tournament play you play other teams but you never play other teams, so I guess we’ll find out.” 

The Red Storm will not only have to contend with a boisterous atmosphere but a Seton Hall team that is going to want to build off the win on Saturday. The Pirates have a busy slate coming up with St. John’s on Monday and Marquette coming to the Garden State on Wednesday. 

Both games will be home games, with Wednesday’s taking the team back to the Prudential Center. 

“Well, we need to (build momentum) because obviously, we’ve been on the road,”  Seton Hall head coach Kevin Willard said. “Five of the seven have been on the road so you have to win home games. Home games are huge. Having an all student game is kind of cool.” 

Graduate forward Alexis Yetna called Seton hall’s upcoming stretch a crucial one for the team.

“We have one game at Walsh and then we play at the Pru. Then we keep rolling,” he said. “It’s important for us to finish this part of the season and get some wins in a row. It’s crucial for us to bounce back from a 2-4 start. We’re fine with that. We’re happy with where we are and we know that we can get back on track.” 

The Pirates are hoping to get back Aiken at some point during their busy stretch, but Willard wasn’t sure if Aiken would be available for Monday’s game after missing Saturday.